How to Use Dental Ultrasonic Cleaning Devices

In general, three classifications of mechanical cleaning devices are available for the dental office. They are the ultrasonic scaler, instrument washer and instrument washer/disinfector.

An ultrasonic scaler uses sound waves, that are outside the human hearing range to form oscillating bubbles, a process called cavitation. These bubbles act on debris to remove it from the instruments. Some manufacturers also use intermittent or sweeping sound waves to help improve the device’s cleaning ability and to decrease the potential for hot spots in the ultrasonic bath. Specialized detergent formulations are available for the solutions in ultrasonic machines. When selecting a cleaning agent to use in the ultrasonic scaler, always consider the effect on materials and instruments.

Household products are inappropriate because they cause pitting, corrosion, rust or other damage to instruments, and potentially to the ultrasonic chamber. Therefore, it is best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, thereby choosing a solution that is compatible with the unit and the instruments. The procedure for cleaning the instruments in the ultrasonic cleaner is as follows:

Suspend instruments in the ultrasonic bath using a rack or basket fitted to the unit.
Do not lay instruments directly on the bottom of the ultra sonic cleaner, as this can interfere with cleaning and cause damage to instruments and the ultrasonic machine.
Avoid overloading the ultrasonic device, since that could inhibit its cleaning ability.

In general, the timer is activated for three to six minutes for loose instruments and ten to twenty minutes for instrument cassettes, and the timing is adjusted as necessary. While the ultrasonic device is running, the lid or cover should be kept on to reduce the release of aerosol and spatter into the area from the ultrasonic cleaner. Routinely replacing the cleaning solution in the ultrasonic machine is important, and is necessary at least once a day, more often with heavy usage.

Instrument washers use high-velocity hot water and a detergent to clean instruments. Widely used for decades in hospitals and large facilities as part of the central sterilization process, these devices have recently become available for the dental office. These devices require personnel to either place instruments in a basket or to use instrument cassettes during the cleaning and drying cycles.

Instrument washers for dental offices come in two different designs. One is a counter-top model. This type does not require professional installation. The other type is built-in and resembles a kitchen dishwasher. It functions much the same as the counter-top model, but it has a larger capacity and requires professional installation. Some models have the ability to dry the instruments after washing, some do not.

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Can Blue Dental Curing Light Hurt Your Eyes?

About the Blue Dental Curing Light

Before I answer Christopher’s question, here’s a little background information for those who aren’t familiar with the blue dental curing light. When a dentist puts a white filling (or a sealant, or a light-cured filling material) in your mouth, it is in a liquid or semi-solid state so that the dentist can put it exactly where it needs to go and shape it correctly. In order for the material to harden so that it can withstand the forces of chewing, it needs to be cured.

Curing the material is accomplished by shining a blue light on it. Not just any blue light will do. It has to be a certain shade of blue.

The blue dental curing light emits light at a wavelength of around 450 to 490 nm, a blue light. You can read more about the visible light spectrum here.

The very first light-activated filling materials used ultraviolet light. Fortunately, today dentists only use materials that are cured by visible light as the use of UV cured materials has pretty much died out due to the dangers posed by ultraviolet light.

The Blue Dental Curing Light Can Hurt Your Eyes!

One of the major dangers of the blue dental curing light is that it can hurt your eyes! When we were learning how to do white fillings, our professors always advised us to never look at the blue light.

Here’s what the book Craig’s Restorative Dental Materialssays about this:

Although there is minimal potential for radiation damage to surrounding soft tissue inadvertently exposed to visible light, caution should be used to prevent retinal damage to the eyes. Because of the high intensity of the light, the operator should not look directly at the tip or the reflected light from the teeth.
The orange filter that you can see on the curing light above filters out the visible light, allowing the dentist or assistant to see what they are doing without looking directly at the light.

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What Is an Dental Ultrasonic Cleaner for Dentist Office?

Ultrasonic cleaners use ultrasound (the same waves that produce ultrasound images) frequencies and a cleaning solvent to clean materials such as dental and lab equipment, jewelry and industrial products. In the 1950’s, the first professional dental ultrasonic cleaner was introduced to the market and commercial ultrasonic cleaner machines were used in homes two decades later.

Ultrasounic cleaners use cavitation, the bubbles created by the sound waves in the tank, to clean the surfaces of items. The bubbles act as a sponge to scrub away dirt, blood and other contaminants that are on these items so that they can be sterilized afterwards.

Choosing the Right Cleaning Solvent

The cleaning solvents used in an ultrasonic washing machine can be as simple as water or as complicated as chemicals depending on the application needs. These cleaners can remove a variety of contaminants including oil, bacteria, fingerprints, mold, blood and soil and are used in many industries. They are most commonly used by dentists to prep their dental instruments prior to sterilization.

When choosing the correct cleaning solvents, you need to consider the items being cleaned and the ultrasonic cleaner’s metal tank that holds the instruments in place.

Disinfectants shouldn’t be used in your used ultrasonic cleaner because these machines don’t sterilize or disinfect, so disinfectants can be too harsh. The pH and acidity of the solution needs to complement the instruments so that it does not cause discoloration or mineral deposits. Many dental offices use neutral and alkaline solutions because they don’t damage the machine nor the instruments it contains.

In recent years, there has been an increase in enzymes and rust preventors used in ultrasonic cleaning solutions. These enzymatic cleaners break down biological organic materials that would otherwise be difficult to remove.

Caring for Your Ultrasonic Cleaner

Be sure to remove your ultrasonic cleaning solutions when they become cloudy and filled with particles. Always remove and replace these solutions with gloved hands to avoid contamination and skin irritation.

Clean the tank routinely with a scouring agent like Comet, but do not use course cleaners or cleaning pads that will leave scratches in the stainless steel. These scratches can trap bacteria and other harmful materials in your machine lessening the cleaning power of your machine.

Ultrasonic cleaner are environmentally friendly, time and energy efficient and flexible for many applications. Duraline Systems has many different model ultrasonic cleaners and accessories from leading ultrasonic cleaning machine manufacturers like our Tuttnauer ultrasonic cleaner machines.